Note that Mrs. Van Daele is now no longer alive. She died in October 2003.
I had heard from another highpointer on Harney Peak, SD that she charged $20/car to access White Butte, so I purposely took all but $5 out of my wallet before I got there. Then, when she brought up the $20 fee, I reached for my wallet and said "Oh, I don't think I have $20. All I have is $5." She was nice enough to accept the $5 as full payment. She said since I was alone she'd make the exception. Thus, I scored a deep discount there, thinking it outrageous to spend $20 to climb that high point. However, she was a very nice lady that I found very easy to chatter with. I don't feel at all bad about my subreption.
The owners have a mail box placed at the last intersection before the old homestead (or about 1/8 of a mile before the abandoned homestead) for depostion of the required fees.
When you arrive at the end of th dirt road leading to the farm house you will find a mailbox. Your donation of 10.00 per vehicle can be made there.
I did this yesterday and wanted to put the current details. From Main St. in Amidon go ~ 2 miles north and then turn right onto an unmarked gravel road. From there drive ~ 4.8 miles and turn right onto a gravel/dirt drive. From there it's ~ .9 miles to a donation mailbox (see images). According to HighPointers.org the expected donation is $10. Turn left at this point, don't continue to the farmhouse. The road at this point is passable in a sedan if the weather has been nice. I was lucky that it was dry as I'm sure in worse conditions it would be difficult. Consider parking at the mailbox if you're unsure about the road as it's only a mile to the trailhead. However, from the mailbox you can go .7 miles to a wider spot where hikers are encouraged to park. You may also go another .2 miles on slightly rougher road at which point the road ends and there's a gate to the trail. Obviously the gate is there for a reason so please close it completely. The trail is clear enough and moderate difficulty. WATCH FOR SNAKES. We came within inches of stepping on a rattlesnake and one other snake of undetermined species. Views are great, you may see some other wildlife, it's a nice high point to complete.
Yes, it is important to emphasize NOT to drive all the way to the abandoned farm yard! Instead, go left (South) at the donation mailbox. Any signs of a trail from the farm yard may be covered over by prairie vegetation, necessitating cross country travel South to the peak.
Note that White Butte is south of Amidon, rather than north (as noted in these directions). I found that jrlang45's directions (further down on this page) are spot on.
Just returned from a highpointing trip to that area. Google and Garmin have made it easier to find the trailhead... the turn off of US 85 outside of Amidon is 140th Street, although there is no street sign (both Google and our Garmin recognized it). At the 5 mile point on 140th Street, the right hand turn is 67th Street, according to the Garmin. Google had it as an unnamed road, although Google DOES have that road plus the wagon road to the butte on its maps. When you get near the farmhouse, you'll see the mailbox along with an oil drum reading "Road Closed" on the left at the start of the wagon road (another, real road will intersect on the right). Driving that wagon road requires some clearance, and the clay/sand mix at parts is deceptively soft. Be careful.. we walked from the mailbox. When you get to the butte, stick to the fence on the left side, including on the way up the initial gulch... you will eventually find yourself approaching a small grove of stunted trees, this is how you know you're on the right trail. It will take you across the grass field from the trees to the butte, go up the butte and eventually cross you over to the other side. Once you get to the ridge on top of the butte the trail is very clear and worn, and you can see the cairn at the highpoint. Walk another 1/5th mile on the top and you're there.
The prairie is a cool place if you get out of your air-conditioned vehicle and explore.
When we went on June 28, we saw wild flowers galore, blooming prickly pear, bobolinks (one of the coolest birds for song and sight) and we found a prairie sparrow's (exact species unknown) nest with 3 chicks with very little fuzz on them. Then there are the windswept land formations.
Not sure why no one has posted coordinates for finding this, but here are some if you want to use them.
Take route 85 to:
Park at padlocked mailbox that accepts your donation. No amount specified. Deposit what you think it is worth. But you have to deposit it prior to you hike as is stated on the sign.
Camping in Amidon or Bowman is not a problem. The oil boom hasn't reached over here.
The only snake we saw was a flat one at the parking area. I think prior posts over exaggerate the risk.
Notes from a July 21, 2013 visit:
• Regarding whether the road to the abandoned farmhouse is passable by vehicle or not—as of our trip, the road past the mailbox is clearly marked with a “Road Closed” sign. Since the landowners don’t want folks driving to the farmhouse, we respected that (the distance from the mailbox to the farmhouse is a flat, pleasant 0.65 miles—certainly not worth losing access over).
• As others have noted, the trail can be hard to follow in the section where it follows a sand wash. There is also a fork in the trail on the ascent up the butte (hint: take the right fork). I found that there was a well-placed cairn in every place where the trail was unclear. So, if in doubt, look around for a cairn.
• The trail was overgrown with prairie grass, shrubs, and other vegetation in many places. We were in shorts; I found it irritating to my legs, and one in our party broke out in welts. I would recommend long pants for this hike.
• The wind was blowing a steady 15mph on the flats and 25mph on the ridgelines. I found it very dehydrating and used a lot more water than would be expected.
• About 5 feet SW of the USGS marker is a small ledge. There was a prairie rattlesnake sunning on this ledge that let us know it was there and then retreated into a burrow under the ledge. So, I would advise caution before doing your highpoint victory dance until you’ve made sure you’re not about to step on the highest rattlesnake in North Dakota.
• The summit log only had about 4-5 blank pages left. If you’re heading up, bring a fresh one (needs to be small—3x5 or 4x6).
• There were a few lingering wildflowers and a lot of dying ones--it looked like they peaked 1-2 weeks prior. The right timing would add a really nice extra dimension to this hike.
Decided to make the trip from Hill City, SD since all National Parks were closed in the area for the govt shutdown. Direction clarifications to the start of the hike up to White Butte were spot on. 1.8 miles east of Amidon on 85 turn right on gravel road. Go 4.8 miles and turn right on another gravel road. Go 0.8 miles to the big mailbox on the left side of the road and park there. Do not go to the farmhouse down the road or drive past the road closed sign. We left $20 in the mailbox for the privilege of hiking across the private land. Follow the tractor path toward White Butte past the road closed sign. We were careful to watch for snakes but Mr. No Shoulders was nowhere in sight. You pass an abandoned farmhouse on the right approximately halfway to the start of the climb up the butte. There is also a gate that you go through near the start of the climb. Do not cross over the fence into the pasture with posted no trespassing signs. The trail is well-worn and easy to follow. The trail forks after the gate. We went to the right and it lead to a short scramble up the dry white clay slope. This could be a problem on a wet day requiring a route closer to the fence line. The trail goes to a small orchard on the next tier and splits through the trees and around to the right on the approach. Both trails meet on the other side of the trees and continue up to a ridge line. Views of the shark fin and white eroded features of the lower parts of White Butte resemble the landscape of another planet. The remaining hike up the ridge to the summit is easy to follow with a well-marked trail. Others have posted elsewhere that there are no trails but that is not the case at all. At the summit is a cairn with a memorial plaque, a register box, and the survey mark. The area has some erosion such that a couple feet of the survey marker pipe is exposed. Someone placed a new register book in the box. We logged in our #6 and #5 HPs for myself and wife respectively. We have 4 apiece in the past month as we start into this quest. The view from the top on our summit day was awesome. The weather was crisp and clear at 55F and a10 mph wind. We read lots of warnings about the prairie rattlers but did not see any on our trip. We did locate the area of the snake den under the summit from a YouTube video but it had been collapsed. We searched around but we're unable to spot any more dens. The return trip down was easy to follow as the trail is an easy to spot white path. This was a great adventure and road trip into North Dakota. The timing was perfect as the first snowfall is imminent. Recommend bringing mosquito repellant for spring and summer treks. Also, if there has been a lot of rain, the trail will probably be very slippery and messy in spots since a lot of the trail is white clay. Recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes for the drive home if the trails are muddy. Safe climbing!
Reached this highpoint in October 2013. Here is some input.
* White soil is slippery when wet, brown soil is a much better grip
* It is called White Butte, but if you head to the highpoint you had better think brown over white when offered a choice
* Some instructions suggest right when at a fork, ravine, etc. I recommend you think LEFT when ascending. The best advice is the fence line. You can't literally walk within reach of the fence the entire way up, but you should error in the direction of the fence.
* More on the trail up...after the gate you walk a few yards along the fence, trail and a thin drainage ditch to the base of the bluffs. Think left. We set up a few small cairns to assist but we see those being knocked over by wind, rain, snow or cows.
* Even more on the trail...it is VERY obvious trail. We went up the wrong ravine and the trails we convinced ourselves was correct were more like animal trails - the kind you have so sort of look at sideways to convince yourself it is indeed a trail. Seriously, the proper trail is 100% obvious trail so move towards the fence line when in doubt.
* Stunted trees. If it is possible to follow directions and be wrong, we did it. We found "stunted trees" - about 10 in a grouping. The writer meant the larger group, a grove of maybe 50-70 trees. The main trail is by these, so no matter how you scramble up to the top, make your way towards these make grove of stunted trees. Again, in the direction of the fence line until you hit a trail that makes you KNOW you are on a real trail.
* We crossed the grass area after passing by the 3 stunted trees and following an animal trail. Once we could see both sides, the higher peak is the correct one. Where we stood it was...wait for it...in the direction of the fence line we followed from the parking area! If you try to go the direction of anything white, it is likely the wrong direction.
SUMMARY: Think left and brown on the way up.
Hope this helps.
I visited on 7/31/15. My experience with the trail matched IowaHawk's. The route was obvious and when in doubt I stayed to the left. I stepped over an old, beaten down barbed wire fence when I was on the plateau below the summit. I don't think I was tresspassing, however, as it cut across the path and the obvious route to the summit.
I concur with the poster who recommended long pants. The brush is quite thick in places.
I went up on June 14, 2014. Directions given above were excellent, they have a sign for White Butte just east of Amidon, and if you turn on the gravel road just after the sign, you have another sign saying you need to go East another mile. I parked by the large mailbox, and walked up the tractor road, the road closed sign is still there. It was wet and a little slippery on the clay, but other than that, It was a really nice easy 2 hour RT hike.
Landowner request per sign is to park at the mailbox and not drive up past the "road closed" sign. Please respect their wishes. I estimated 3 miles RT from the mailbox to summit. Trail is easy to follow and wicked slippery at places when wet!
As others have mentioned, $10 per car donation to mailbox.
We used some of the other reports to find the trailhead on a beautiful (but cold early) day. jrlang45 had the correct gravel road turnoff, Ave 140. Neither of us have ever used a GPS before but the rent-a-car came with one so we turned on the maps. We were coming from the east so did not go through Amidon first. I pulled over to evaluate where we were and lo and behold Garmin reported we were AT 140th. So, we turned left from our westbound route. We turned right on 69th, not 67th according to Garmin, drove about a mile to an L intersection where the street ended and saw the mail box, the faintly lettered Road Closed sign and to the southwest maybe a quarter mile away what we assume is the owners' home. No one appeared to be there. We deposited $20 and followed the route described here in several other reports. It was in the high 40s or low 50s and sunny and beautiful when we made the summit. We saw no snakes. Thanks to those who preceded us for the great directions. We might buy a GPS now although we never did read through the mega page manual to learn how to program it. The maps were quite useful during our trip to the highpoints of ND, SD, NE, KS, OK.
This was a spring trip to knock off several highpoints. We used the old Zumwalt book and ended up quite a bit west of the standard route but had fun finding a route up the butte. Flushed a huge jackrabbit near the top and hunted for rocks at the base of the butte. The warm sun and cool breeze made it the perfect day.
Went there this past weekend. First of all, follow the "getting there" directions exactly and you will be fine. There is signage on the road that confuses you and posts here that are flat out wrong (It's 69th not 67th). There is a mailbox, but no request for a donation. I made one anyway. There is a clear sign that says road closed, but also clear that people didn't care. Seems to be that the owner moved some barb wire fence to stop people and that is the first step in stopping access. Please follow the rules and pay the people please. There is obviously an impact to access and I'm sure the donations don't cover the full cost.
As for the trail, it is not the best. Going up the white sand hill is slick, so be careful. Also, you have some prarie grass and other vegetation to contend with, so pants are a good idea. The biggest surprise was the wind. It was a sunny day, but the wind was ferocious. So strong it knocked both my kids off their feet multiple times and nearly got me a couple of times. Also the sand blowing in my eyes hurt like heck, so I recommend at least sunglasses.
Overall a great view and easy hike.